Mason June 17
Last Sunday morning Mona called to me to “see something.” I went upstairs, and she stood by the entry door to the kitchen watching a chipmunk, Snuffy and a mother robin in and near the maple tree by the kitchen steps. Snuffy was at the base of the tree, looking up; the chipmunk was hanging out on the tree trunk six feet or so, and the robin was cussing and flying about in an effort to protect the contents of its nest on one limb of that tree. Then the robin attacked the chipmunk, knocking it down nearly into Snuffy’s reach, where it scurried part way up the tree again. This scene repeated itself as I went upstairs to get the .22 to shoot the chipmunk. As I came out with the gun, the robin knocked the chipmunk down; Snuffy took chase, and the chipmunk made it safely into the barn where it could hide amongst the junk scattered about.
I spent last week at Loon Lodge on Round Pond, just north of Caucomgomoc Lake, about 75 miles north of Greenville with four other guys, fishing. Loon Lodge is a rustic but comfortable facility with a main lodge building and several separate lodging cabins on the shore of Round Pond. The lodge is owned and run by Ray and Leslie Cooley of Bethel and is open from about May 1 until the end of deer hunting the first week of December. The Cooleys offer a range of lodging and hunting or fishing packages at Loon Lodge. We chose a rustic cabin where we provided our own food and used their utensils and gas range for cooking.
Our group of five guys proved to be quite compatible even though some of us had never met be-fore. Norm Weston, Gary Marston and I were friends before the trip, and Gary was friends with Dicky Merrill and Arthur Hutchins, who are neighbors in Andover. I was the “old man” of the group and sort of the “odd man out” because the other four had worked in either the Rumford or Jay paper mill at some point in the past, and I had not. I made the mistake of wearing a flat top camou-flage bdu (battle dress uniform) cap, leading Dicky to refer to me as the “expletive deleted” Marine, even though my experience had been in the Air Force.
We developed an informal arrangement of domestic duties, with everybody readily contributing. The evening meal was prepared by whomever provided the main course for that day; our wives or significant other had each provided a dish big enough to feed five hungry men for one meal: Arthur provided a gallon of American chop suey, Dicky a gallon of beef stew, Gary a gallon of spa-ghetti/meatball sauce, Norm about 1 and ½ gallon of baked pork and beans, and Mona had made a large beef and vegetable casserole for me to bring. Breakfast was always fried eggs and a pound of bacon or fried eggs and a pound of sausage with buttered toast. The second morning determined that Norm was the egg chef and Gary the “toastmaster,” because they did the best job at these tasks. Arthur and Dick alternated cooking the bacon and sausage. I made coffee, did dishes and stoked the woodstove. We still had tons of food at the end of our week there!
Our cabin could sleep eight people, with up to five in two rooms downstairs with two more beds in the loft. Arthur slept in the bed in the “master bedroom,” Norm and I shared a room with two sets of bunk beds, and Gary and Dicky slept in the loft. The first two days were cool and rainy, so we kept a fire going whenever in the cabin. By evening, it was toasty downstairs and downright hot in the loft, about 120 degrees according to Gary. After that, I was badgered by Dicky and Gary every time I got close to the stove due to their fear of being roasted again!
With no electric lights and only gas lights dimmed by age, it was not light enough to read after the sun went down, so nearly everybody went to bed by 8 to 9 p.m. Gary has the record for quickest and probably loudest snoring, as Dicky claims that his head had no sooner touched the pillow than he was snoring! By the time I got to bed there were usually three to four snorers, rumbling loud enough to rattle the rafters. The night after the bean supper, there was an additional chorus of gas rumbles. As this was a gathering of older men with tired bladders, there was also a nightly ritual of flashlights blinking on as one bleary-eyed man after another stumbled out the cabin door for relief, beginning sometime after midnight. There was at least one pine tree that got plenty of water last week!
I took several magazines and a book with me, as I planned on catching up on my reading. Wrong! There was a nightly ritual of story telling, jokes and general banter punctuated with rather salty language that continued until everyone headed for bed. Mornings after breakfast were similarly occupied, and we hardly ever got out to go fishing before 9 a.m. even though we were always up by 6 a.m. Often, the subject of someone referred to as “Sweetums” was brought up by Gary and Dicky. Now, I never met this person, and nothing specific was ever said about her, but I gather from some of the inferences that she was probably a little less than beautiful, perhaps even slovenly. Not only that, but somehow Arthur’s name was drawn into the conversation whenever Sweetums was men-tioned. Again, only vague inferences linked the two names, and Arthur never confirmed any of them! Norm and I can only wonder if there really is a Sweetums or if this was a plot to sully Ar-thur’s reputation.
We had a fun week, but we did not bring back very many fish, although we tried lots of different kinds of places. One day, Gary, Arthur and Dicky ventured into a marshy area apparently flooded by beavers (Norm and I were on another fruitless fly fishing venture). Gary came back with several nice trout, but Dicky made a misstep and sank into the mud clear to his shoulders, filling his wad-ers with mud and water in the process. Arthur was a helpless witness, as Dicky was out of reach, with nothing available for Arthur to reach him with. Luckily, Dicky was able to extricate himself and made it back to the truck with waders and pants slung over his shoulder.
Ray salvaged the week for Gary, Arthur and Dicky when he took them north to the St. John River to fish for muskies. They caught several of these large pike-like fish, and Gary was again the big-gest catcher, with a 33-inch. 14-pound bundle of slashing tail and razor sharp teeth. After a vigorous battle, the four of them managed to get the fish into the boat, where it tore a great hole in Ray’s landing net and taught Arthur a new dance step as Arthur backed away from the menacing rows of teeth. This adventure was capped off by an excellent Friday night supper that Leslie prepared while the men played.